Missouri's first unclaimed property kiosk unveiled in Columbia

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 | 4:42 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel visited the Columbia License Office on Tuesday morning to unveil the state’s first prototype of a kiosk he hopes will help Missourians collect unclaimed property more efficiently.

According to Missouri statutes, unclaimed property is any property that has been dormant for five years or more that has been turned over to the state by financial institutions, government agencies, businesses and other organizations.

Approximately one in 10 Missourians has unclaimed property, which amounts to a total value of $600 million statewide, according to a release from Zweifel’s office.

“(Unclaimed property) could be an old safe deposit box, savings account or checking account, an escrow account, a life insurance policy,” Zweifel said.

The kiosk, which has been in the license office since January, consists of a touch screen that allows users to type in their names to see whether or not they have unclaimed property. Its location was selected so Missourians waiting in line for other state services have the opportunity to make their time more useful by searching for unclaimed property as well, Zweifel said.

Since the kiosk has been in Columbia, it has allowed $5,700 to be returned to residents, with an average amount of $55 returned, according to a release from Zweifel's office.

Implementing this new technology accomplishes several things, Zweifel said.

“First of all, it promotes unclaimed property so that more Missourians know about it and are willing to check our website,” Zweifel said. “Secondly, it helps us with lower dollar claims. So, we have a lot of individuals who, in the past, wouldn’t process or collect that $25 or $40 claim because they thought, ‘Oh, it’s too much work.’ Well, now it’s even easier for them to do so.”

The kiosk also allows Missourians to submit their information to an unclaimed property e-mail alert system, which notifies residents if lost or forgotten assets come into the state’s possession.

“The idea is that we want to be proactive with this and make sure that we hold on to that property for as little as possible and get it back to Missourians,” Zweifel said.

Claiming property is free of charge, Zweifel said. He added the kiosk is paid for out of the unclaimed property fund and therefore does not compete with general revenue used for state services such as education or highway construction.

“We approach this from a place of fiscal conservatism that says, you know, let’s return more property and spend less doing it,” Zweifel said.

Another kiosk will be put in the Truman Building in Jefferson City in the near future, Zweifel said. Based on the results of the kiosks, more might be placed throughout the state.

“We’re trying to make sure that we do everything to promote the program and the technology to really bring that money back to individuals … This is taxpayers’ money, and it’s our responsibility to get this money back to taxpayers,” Zweifel said. “This helps us do it faster.”

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